My mom and dad were best friends before they went on their first date. Then, after two years of dating and seven years of marriage, they decided to call it quits. At this point, their relationship reverted back to that original best friendship they had years ago.
As a result, when I was growing up, that kind of arrangement was the norm. But as I got older, the answer to the question, "can you be friends with your ex" started to get more and more complicated. Should you stay friends or would that make things weird? What if your ex was particularly awful to you?
Well, according to Rebecca Griffith, a master's student in psychology at the University of Kansas, previous research has found that the majority of people actually follow my parents' example. Apparently, about 60 percent of people stay friends after a breakup.
In a more recent study, Griffith and her team surveyed over 170 men and 110 women using multiple questionnaires. And in another experiment consisting of 300 women and almost 250 men, they confirmed the questionnaires were accurate. Through these experiments, researchers concluded there are about four different reasons people choose to stay friends with their exes.
1. You Need Them For Emotional Support
Basically, researchers found some people keep their exes around for the emotional security. You might not want to lose the good advice, the emotional support, or the trust you've had with this person.
The study found that friendships based on this reasoning actually tended to be pretty positive ones, meaning they left the exes feeling secure and happy. That being said, this reasoning didn't really predict whether your friendship was last for a long time or fizzle out quickly.
2. You Keep Them Around Because It's Practical For You
Sometimes, like in the case of my parents, there's just too much the two of you share for it to be feasible to not stay friends. So as a result, a lot of people reported staying friends because it's the most practical thing to do.
For example, Griffin explained to Live Science that people who had kids together or other joint finances are more likely to stay friends for these practical reasons. This line of reasoning was also one of the best indicators of a long-lasting, healthy, positive friendship in the study.
3. You're Just Being Nice
Sometimes, you stay friends with your ex just because you don't want to hurt them by not staying friends, Griffith explained to Live Science. This, along with maintaining a friendship based in practicality, are the best types of friendship you can have with an ex, according to study.
4. You're Still In Love With Them
Finally, there's the most obvious reason you'd stay friends with an ex of all: You still have feelings for them.
The study found these types of friendships were unsurprisingly associated with the most negative feelings (like jealousy, depression, or a broken heart) But interestingly enough, they also resulted in longer-lasting friendships. Griffith explained, "Even though you're not reaping any benefits from the friendship, you tend to stay in [it] longer."
At the end of the day, there are two broader types of friendships with exes: ones based on emotional needs (you're still in love with them or you still need their support) or ones that are totally unemotional (you're just trying to be civil or you're keeping it together for the kids). The less emotional your reasoning, the more likely you're friendship will be positive and successful.
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